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In this Harry Potter Lexicon Minute, I will discuss the fourth chapter of Goblet of Fire: Back to the Burrow.

In this chapter, the Weasley family picks up Harry at Privet Drive. The text paints a very clear and fast-paced picture of what is happening. I relish the image of Arthur shooting the electric fireplace across the room, of Dudley and his tongue being squashed under Aunt Petunia and of Arthur using his wand to defend himself and Harry against the ornaments Vernon is throwing at them.

One way Rowling paints these vivid fast-moving scenes is by the way she writes sentences. Did you ever notice that whenever Rowling wants to describe a scene that happens very fast, she uses very long and lots of compound sentences? There are multiple instances in this chapter where a long sentence takes up over half of the entire paragraph. For example:

“He stepped into the fire, looking over his shoulder as he said ‘The Burrow!’; his last fleeting glimpse of the living room was of Mr Weasley blasting a third ornament out of Uncle Vernon’s hand with his wand, Aunt Petunia screaming and lying on top of Dudley, and Dudley’s tongue lolling around like a great slimy python.”

Having taken courses on writing, I was always taught that you should limit the number of words in a sentence to an average of 15 to 20 words – instead of the 57 words in this example. Otherwise, you might lose the reader along the way. But nearly running out of breath while reading the single sentence in the example just given – either out loud or in your head – really increases the speed of the scene.

Looking back at Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, it is harder to find such long sentences in that book. Most descriptive sentences there consist of fewer and shorter compound sentences. The book still paints a clear picture though, mainly because Rowling likes to use lots and lots of adjectives (for example: “A single wand lay on a faded purple cushion in the dusty window”).

Rowling will continue using these adjectives throughout the seven Harry Potter books. By Goblet of Fire, however, she has clearly increased her expectations of the reading abilities of her audience.

The post GF4: A Lot of Long Sentences appeared first on The Harry Potter Lexicon.

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